Monday, October 09, 2006

Os Guinness's "Unspeakable"

The quotations at the front page of the book sets the tone for the book, which is on the presence of evil in the world.

1) "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (Edmund Burke, 1729-1797)

2) "In Germany, they came first for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was nobody left to speak up." (Pastor Martin Niemoller, 1892-1984)

3) "The world is too dangerous to live in - not because of people who do evil, but because of people who sit and let it happen." (Albert Einstein, 1879-1955)

4) "Let us not forget that violence does not and cannot flourish by itself; it is inevitably intertwined with lying. Between them there is the closest, the most profound and natural bond: nothing screens violence except lies, and the only way lies can hold out is by violence. Whoever has once announced violence as his method must inevitably choose lies as his principle. The simple act of an ordinary courageous man is not to take part, not to support lies! Let the lie come into the world, even dominate the world, but not through me." (Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 1918-)

In these quotes, the first three portrays a need to actively stand up against the evils and injustice in this world. The last quote by Solzhenitsyn, I would term "Passive act of good" in terms of not allowing oneself to be the channel of evil. As Christians, we need to be BOTH active and passive agents of goodness. We are created for good works. (Eph 2:10)

I agree with Guinness that the presence of overwhelming evil should not silence us, nor should it render us powerless that we do nothing. We should instead actively find ways to firstly recognize its reality, engage our emotional anger, and pray for opportunities to do something about it, no matter how small. Guinness is right to accuse Christians of moving to the 'faith clutch' too quickly without using our mental faculties to engage the explanation of evils like terrorism or Sep 11. The way of the mind, when dealing with evil must eventually point us to faith in God. His last paragraph is worth quoting.

Our challenge today is not to resort to faith as a clutch because reason has stumbled, but rather to acknowledge that reason, in its long, arduous search, has come up short and that where it has stopped it has pointed beyond itself to answers that only faith can fulfill. In the face of the horror of the unspeakable, only such faith can provide the best truths to come to terms with evil, the highest courage to resist evil, the deepest love to care for those caught in its toils, and the profoundest hope of the prospect of a world beyond evil, beyond hatred, beyond oppression, and even beyond tears.

Painful it is. Even greater pain is inflicted when those who are able to do something about it, don't.

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